USC basketball: Nikola Vucevic apologizes for his ‘we played like women’ comment after Arizona game


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USC junior forward Nikola Vucevic apologized Sunday for the comment he made following the Trojans’ 82-73 loss to Arizona on Saturday that the men’s basketball team ‘played like women.’

‘I didn’t mean to offend people,’ he said by phone. ‘If I did, I apologize for it.’

Vucevic is a native of Montenegro and English is not his first language, which is Serbian.


He largely learned English when he came to Simi Valley Stoneridge Prep in October 2007, but he often admits that he struggles with common English jargon and translating common Serbian phrases into English.

‘It happens to me a lot when I try to say something and a lot of people don’t understand,’ he said.

Vucevic said that was the case with the following remark, which he said in answering a question asked by a Times’ reporter about facing Arizona’s talented and deep lineup.

‘I felt like we played like women,’ Vucevic said after the loss in Tucson, Ariz. ‘We didn’t play hard at all. Every single one of us just played like women.’

There were four people present to hear it, two male reporters working for California newspapers, a female reporter for an Arizona newspaper and a female sports information official for the University of Arizona.

‘Back home, when we say that, it means we didn’t play hard,’ he said. ‘That’s what coaches say to players. It’s just a saying we have.’ Vucevic’s mother played professional basketball in Bosnia and his girlfriend plays volleyball, so, he said, he deeply respects all women who play sports and in no way meant to offend anyone.


Vucevic said he has yet to be berated for his comment -- though he has received some attention and criticism for it -- but that he will readily apologize to anyone he offended.

USC Coach Kevin O’Neill said he did talk to Vucevic about it.

‘He realizes it was a mistake and the last thing Nikola would do is disrespect anybody,’ O’Neill said. ‘He feels bad about the whole thing. He’s the last guy in the world to demean women’s basketball.’

O’Neill said he told Vucevic, who is projected to play in the NBA, ‘You’re going to be doing interviews for a long time and when you say something, you can’t take it back. That’s just the way it is.’

The 6-foot-10, 260-pound Vucevic leads USC in scoring (16.0 points a game) and the Pacific 10 Conference in rebounding (10.0) this season. He also has 12 double-doubles, which leads the Pac-10.

-- Baxter Holmes